The phrase "just beginning to scratch the surface" might be a bit over-used in describing high school basketball prospects, but there's probably no better way to sum up James Padgett. Padgett, a junior at Abraham Lincoln in the Bronx, is just 16 years old, and there's no doubt his best basketball is very much ahead of him.
His new coach at Lincoln, Dwayne "Tiny" Morton, certainly feels that way: "He has a lot of potential because he's still young. He runs the floor very well for a big guy. He's a great rebounder for his size. As he gets older he'll learn to score on people much bigger than him".
He went on: "This is really his first year of playing in the spotlight. Definitely his best days are ahead of him. I'm glad Coach (Craig) Carter is on him early". That is something RU fans should be enthused about, considering that Padgett has not played AAU ball before. This summer he will, probably for the Juice All-Stars or Starrett City.
Padgett said the three schools that he has heard the most from so far are Providence, West Virginia, and Rutgers. As far as his relationship with Coach Carter, he said, "It's good. He's a cool guy". He stated that he was out to Rutgers to visit at the Elite Camp in 2006 and enjoyed himself.
He said he really has no preference geographically as to where he'll eventually end up going to school, nor does a team's style of play particularly matter to him. What does matter to him, he said, is "if they can fit me into their system".
Padgett also stated that it doesn't matter whether he ends up at a program that has been a traditional powerhouse or one that is seeking to establish a winning tradition. What also matters a great deal to him, aside from finding a system that fits him, is the chance to be able to play right away.
Right now Padgett said he stands about 6'7 and will probably reach 6'8. He said he's more comfortable playing with his back to the basket, and that he enjoys the contact of playing down low. However, when asked if he's working on shot, he replied "Definitely!" a sentiment echoed by Coach Morton, who said, "We're trying to get him to step out to the free throw line."
As for his former teammate Patrick Jackson, Padgett said "We're friends. We talk on the phone sometimes". When asked if Jackson has ever asked him about the possibility of joining him at RU, he replied "A little bit". As to the possibility of that happening, he said, "Anything is possible".
He said that he would like to reach a decision by the early signing period in November. For now, he is enjoying the process, stating, "It's good to see schools that are interested in me". He said he's not totally sure yet, but that he'll probably study business in college.
Coach Morton was asked if he felt Padgett could help RU succeed in the brutally tough Big East, and he did not hesitate: "Definitely". He then added, once again: "His best days are a head of him".